The initial letters were delivered in a black and white compostion notebook labeled "Reading Response Journal" to each young reader. The first letter that I wrote to each reader was based on a teacher letter published in a chapter from Fountas and Pinnell's Guiding Readers and Writers, Grades 3-6:
This year, you and I will write letters to each other about books, reading, writers, and writing. Our letters will help us learn together. The letters will help you learn more about reading.
When you write letters to me in this Reading Response Journal, do your best work and share your best thinking. For example, you might:
- Tell what you like or dislike about a book and why.
- Tell what you noticed about the characters, such as what made them act as they did or how they changed.
- Tell about parts of your book that puzzled you or made you ask questions.
- Write about something in the book that surprised you or that you found interesting.
- Write your predictions and about whether your predictions were right.
- Ask for help in figuring out the meaning of your book.
- Tell about the connections you made while reading the book. Tell how it reminds you of yourself, of people you know, or of something that happened in your life. It might remind you of other books, especially the characters, the events, or the setting.
- Write about the author's style and how it makes you feel.
- Write about the language the author used and why you think the author wrote this way.
- Write about the author's craft - what was effective about the way the author wrote.
Write a letter to me once a week. The completed letter is due on Fridays. Use a letter form and include the title and author of the book you are reading. It is important that your letters are neat and easy to read so I can understand what you are thinking. Read through your letter to make sure that it says all you want it to say before you put it in the front office Reading Response Journal basket.
When I read your journal, I will learn from you, and we will learn together about books. What fun we will have getting to know each other and BOOKS!
Your Reading Buddy,
The student response to this Leadership Team safety net was exciting and I was eager to share my reading buddys' thinking on my Blog. Originally I had planned to take pictures of our letters and copy them into a post. However, after the winter break, I decided to add a bit of flare to motivate some of our more reluctant readers. I gathered all of my reading buddies in my office one Friday and showed them my Blog, my own Voki, and the cluster map that demonstrated the vast audience that "tuned in" on a regular basis. The deal was that as soon as each of my reading buddies had exchanged 5 letters with me, they could publish the letter of their choice by creating their own Voki Avatar. This idea was met with with "cool" and "awesome" along with "wow, really?" comments. By the end of the first week, Zaria wrote the following at the end of her response letter:
P.S. Ms. Ferguson, I just wanted to let you know that I have already written five letters.
So, Zaria was the first to create her own Voki Avatar and publish a podcast read-aloud of one of her Reading Response Journal letters. You can enjoy the published Reading Response Journal letters from my reading buddies by pressing the "Play" button on the Vokis in the column to the right of my Blog Posts. I hope you enjoy listening to their letters as much as I enjoy reading and responding to them each week!